Govt’s assistance soon with lockdown extension

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / pic by BERNAMA

THE government is expected to announce its latest economic stimulus package as the country remains under an indefinite nationwide lockdown.

Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) said there will be no Movement Control Order (MCO) term from now on, as the government is basing its decision to move from one phase to another, in accordance with the National Recovery Plan (NRP) announced on June 15.

In order for Malaysia to enter the second phase of the NRP, it is expected for daily Covid-19 cases to remain below 4,000 for seven consecutive days, the healthcare system including the ICU bed utilisation is out of critical level and 10% of the population having received both vaccination doses.

“We are aware everyone is waiting to see how the government is going to help those affected during this phase (of NRP) and subsequent phases until the end of the year,” Muhyiddin said in a Bernama report yesterday.

“We have taken account of the needs of all these groups more comprehensively than before. I will announce the details tomorrow or the day after, so that everyone knows where we stand,” he said, adding that the aid will be channelled to all groups in society.

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said he has discussed with Bank Negara Malaysia and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) on the reintroduction of the loan moratorium and i-Sinar initiative, citing it is “the right time to do so”.

“With the NRP, this is the right time for us to bring back such initiatives (as introduced before) to help the people and businesses,” he said on his Facebook page yesterday.

Meanwhile, Centre for Market Education CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito said the upcoming stimulus is akin to putting a band aid on a huge hole.

“This strategy is very costly and presently the number of people unemployed or underemployed is more than 700 times higher than the people who died of Covid and it should be clear now that lockdowns do not ‘break the chain of infections’.

“On the contrary, they are bringing the poor to a very dangerous territory, which may lead to social unrest,” he said.

Former Finance Minister and Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng said the stimulus package must not be cosmetic in nature, but must comprise an automatic bank loan moratorium with interest waivers until the end of the year.

“There should also be a minimum RM45 billion fund injection to offset the expected economic losses of RM170 billion incurred from the current MCO total lockdown,” he said in a statement.

The World Bank reported that the average Malaysian firm is less equipped to face a crisis like Covid-19 compared to their regional peers with less cash in hand of 4.9 months cashflow available.

It added that 60% of firms are either in arrears or at risk of falling into arrears within the next six months.

Lim said this is why an automatic bank loan moratorium accompanied by interest waivers until yearend is necessary.

“The banking industry can definitely afford such a moratorium with interest waiver after recording healthy after-tax profits of RM32.3 billion in 2019, RM23 billion in 2020 and also during the first quarter of this year.”

Lim said the government must urgently provide financial help of RM35 billion in the form of dental, wage and utility subsidies; hiring and wage incentives to create new jobs; as well as grants.

Persekutuan Pertubuhan India Muslim Malaysia VP Shaik Faridhudheen Anverdeen agreed that the government should formulate financial assistance plans for the people, especially the bottom 40% and medium 40% groups.

“The government should give automatic moratorium to all for at least the next three months, which will give some space to breathe for the people and for both small and large traders.

“This will also increase the people’s disposable income, thereby stimulating the country’s economy.”

He said related business sectors such as computer equipment and mobile phones reparations should be allowed, as the use of these equipment is important to employees who carry out tasks from home as well as the implementation of school sessions through the home-based teaching and learning method.

“Stationery equipment must also be given permission to be sold.”